Veeraswamy Krishnaraj  November 10, 2016
Vamana is the celebrated fifth Avatar of the ten incarnations of Vishnu. King Mahabali son of Vairochana, Grandson of Prahlada, great grandson of Hiranyakasipu, and great great grandson of Kāśyapa-Diti union. Bali conquered and evicted the gods and their king Indra from heaven. Making the chief angry is not a thing to do. There are consequences. A dwarf was born to dwarf the importance of Bali and restore the suzerainty of Indra over heavens. Bali was a devotee of Vishnu. How could Vishnu born as Avatar Vamana punish a devotee? With kid gloves. That is the story of Vamana Avatara.
To punish and conquer king Bali, Vishnu took birth on earth as Vamana the son of Kasyapa and Aditi. Vāmana (वामन) = a dwarf.
King Bali was performing a sacrifice. Vamana in the guise of a Brahmana pupil walks in on the tall king, who told the Brahmin to ask him for a gift. Śukrācārya, suspicious of preterlegal Vamana and recognizing him as the Avatar of Vishnu, told the king to cease and desist. The king ignored his advisor. Vamana asked the king for a piece of land his little feet could cover in three steps.
The king was getting ready to honor his promise of the gift by sanctifying it and pouring water from a vessel. Śukrācārya with his mystical power shrunk himself enough to plug the hole of the spout of the vessel. Seeing no flow of water, the king took a blade of Kuśa grass (darbha, Kaus, the sacred grass, Poa Cynosuroides), poked the spout and caused the water to flow. Incidentally he poked one eye of Śukrācārya, making him blind in one eye. The king kept his vow.  Śukrācārya lost eyesight in one eye. Bali lost his kingdom. The worst is yet to come.
Suddenly, the preterhuman Dwarf-Vishnu expanded to an enormous size. (The Macy's inflatable baloons on the Thanksgiving Day Parade grow huge. But preternatural Vamana grew in cosmic proportions.) With his two steps, he strode the earth, the middle and the heavens. The heavens, he gave to Indra to rule. Bali, divinely hoodwinked and realizing that Vamana was Vishnu and he had no land to cover the last, offered his head for the third step. Vamana becoming Trivikrama (Tri-vikrama =Three-world warrior) stepped on his head and by the pressure exerted, sent King Bali to the netherworld to rule over the kingdom of Asuras. What a pity. Bali was the king of heaven. Now he is the king of the underworld. Fortunes do reverse. Vamana, dismissed as the king of gods in heavens became the king of gods' cousins the Asuras in the netherworld. To Bali, this was a zero-sum game, although he lost prime real-estate in heavens for the measly underworld. He lost some and he gained some. All with the blessings of Vamana.

Vamana, blue in color, stands before Bali in his ochre clothes with a tuft over the Bindu area of the head, beard and mustache, a pair of wooden footwear and a wood-fabric parasol. An antelope skin graces his right shoulder as the mark of an itinerant ascetic. He is bejeweled and wears a sacred thread, and sandalwood paste strokes on his forehead. The mustached king and Vamana with facial hair are fixating in each other’s eyes. The king bends a little as a sign of respect. On the floor are the accouterments of ritual: a tray, Kuśa grass, a conch on a stand, a goblet, a small paddle-shaped holder for water or burning camphor, and flower-shaped stand with a burning wick. Notice Dharba grass knots on his ring fingers, and the filigreed lid of the vessel with the spout in the king’s hands.

The image of Vamana, Bali and śukrācārya: Punjab Hills 1700-1721. Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Śukrācārya with a quizzical look, stands behind the king holding back king’s shoulder and raising a cautionary and admonishing index finger. The king brown in color and wearing intensely ochre Dhoti, jewels, pearl necklace, sacred thread, upper cloth over left shoulder -அங்கவஸ்திரம் aṅka-vastiram, n. aṅga +. Upper cloth; மேலாடை- and sectarian marks all over the body, holds a Kamaṇḍalu (water-vessel with a spout) with flow of water, which falls in the tray. śukrācārya wears a true blue loincloth, sacred thread, sectarian marks, a crown of flowers, an upper cloth, a string of pearls, a groomed mustache… The king and Śukra are bare-footed. The dwarf wears a pair of cleats.  The right eye of Śukra is half-closed from the Dharba grass poking it.
The turmeric background of the frame enhances the three figures.
Śukra: Mighty and benevolent king, I have one thing to tell you: a word of caution. You must stop and desist your misguided munificence. Please do not sanctify your offer of gift to Vamana. (Śukrācārya was a loyal minister of good counsel.)
The king, all eyes on Vamana, appears to ignore Śukra with earth-splitting consequence, the terra firma suddenly caving in, the sinkhole swallowing Bali and burial in the netherworld to become king of the underworld. Yes, he lives through this earth-splitting experience with no adversity.
Vamana appears to reveal his mind on his benign divine face and stance: Poor devotee of mine, the king. He does not know what is coming to him. I will wrest the heavens from him and yet I won’t harm him. I will make him the king of the netherworld.
Śukra is taller than the king indicating he is wiser and worldlier than the king. The king is a devoted man shorn of hair on the head (except for the tuft) and face except for the mustache. His happiness at serving the dwarf is immeasurable.
The king standing bent slightly seems to say: Serving a Brahmin in need is my religious duty. I am fortunate to be in a position to perform my duty.
The king has a tuft on his head over the Bindu area. Saiva tradition: Hair-tuft is the corporeal equivalent of Tirodhāna or Veiling power of Siva, wherein Siva conceals Divine Knowledge and Grace until the soul sheds its impurities (Malam). That tuft represents the obscuring principle. When the impurities of the soul fall, the tuft comes off. That state is Sivadarmini (சிவதருமினி). The individual soul unburdened from Malams is fit for emancipation and merger with the Unmiversal Soul. 

2890 Divyaprapandam

பொரு மா நீள் படை ஆழி சங்கத்தொடு
திரு மா நீள் கழல் ஏழ் உலகும் தொழ
ஒரு மாணிக் குறள் கி நிமிர்ந்த அக்
கரு மாணிக்கம் என் கண்ணுளது ஆகுமே. 1.10.1 திருவாய் மொழி

My god bears battle-ready weapons like discus and conch. Beings of the seven worlds worship and pay homage to his feet. He went to the great Bali as a dwarf but stood as a huge form. That dark gem-colored Lord is in my eyes.

"Vamana: 'In one stride, I spanned with my feet the entire earth, the bhuvarloka with my thights, the Swarloka with my waist, Maharloka with my stomach, Janaloka with my chest, Tapoloka with my neck, and Satyaloka with my head and face. My gigantic form encompsses all the planets, the sun the moon and the universe.' "

From Wikipedia: Vishnu holding his foot on Bali's head and